This fascinating article appeared in nature magazine and is fair warning for woman and men to be careful to look twice before you choose yr mate. (or at least shower once)
Rightly or wrongly, looks do matter in our choice of partner. We tend to find symmetrical faces more attractive than asymmetrical ones and, especially for men, the balance of women’s curves seems to be a major consideration in selecting a mate. But, if beauty is only in theeyes of the beholder, why do we all douse ourselves in bottled fragrances to ensure that we smell pleasant after a hard day’s work? It may be because smells ring similar ‘attractiveness’ bells, according to Anja Rikowski and Karl Grammer from Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology, Vienna, Austria, reporting in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
To capture body odours the researchers persuaded a group of male and female students to sleep in the same T-shirt on three successive nights. In addition to a perfume-free washing bar and odourless shampoo, the participants were sent home with a pack of unperfumed soap-powder with which to launder their bed linen before the start of their nightly duties. To avoid other disturbing smells, they weren’t allowed to use scented products or eat garlic, onions or other pungent foods, and they had to stay clear of smelly pubs and refrain from smoking, drinking alcohol and sex.
Independent judges were brought in to rate the attractiveness of the individuals, and others assessed the quality of the odours accumulated in the T-shirts – women to judge the males’ smelly shirts and men to nose out the feminine aromas.
Men, even when blindfolded, were able to select the sexiest lady. When left with nothing but a bar of soap, gorgeous women managed to smell sexy even after wearing the same top night after night. So some girls really do have it all! Just as visible features are thought to reflect an individual’s ability to cope with genetic and environmental stress during their development, it seems that smells, like looks, are associated with similar qualities. Thus, paying attention to both senses should eliminate all error and ensure that every man ends up with the woman of his dreams.
But, what about the women? Based on Rikowski and Grammer’s results, they would be ill-advised to trust their sense of smell when hunting for a sexy man. Whereas women tend to prefer the odour of physically attractive and symmetrical men, they only do so reliably during their most fertile days of the month. On other days – be warned, girls – they are likely to choose the least attractive of the lot. In other words the dictum ‘what you see is what you get’ still works best for women.
So that’s the science. Now try to convince anyone travelling on the underground during the evening rush hour – men, women, fertile or not – that uncontrolled bodily odours are anywhere near sexy